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New York City is known for cheesecake, pizza, and clam chowder. It’s been called “the big apple,” “the city that never sleeps,” and “the empire city.” It’s a fast city that never slows down, and a passionate city whose citizens will defend it as one of the greatest cities on earth. Students can learn a lot from a visit to NYC, and not just about the history of our country or where to find the best pastrami sandwich. New York City is bubbling with diversity—more so than most people probably realize. It is confirmed that at least 200 languages are spoken regularly in NYC, with experts suspecting the actual number is closer to 800. About 40% of New York City residents were born outside the US, and it’s one of the only cities in the entire country that has four separate racial groups each making up more than 10% of the overall population.
This amazing city has so many historical landmarks that it would be impossible to see them all in a short trip, but there are a few that are absolute must-sees. These landmarks can bring a fresh perspective to the minds of your students in a number of ways, but more than anything, they will shed new light on the subject of diversity. From a city that has almost mastered cultural diversity, students can learn a great deal from these NYC landmarks that they can apply to their own lives back home.
The Statue of Liberty
No trip to New York City would be complete without a trip to the Statue of Liberty. But with a little planning and debriefing after the visit, your students will take away a new appreciation for diversity, freedom, and empathy for others when they experience the Statue of Liberty. Originally a gift from France to the US in celebration of their friendship and freedom, the Statue of Liberty has become so much more to millions of people. It’s located on Liberty Island in Upper New York Bay and greets ships coming into New York Harbor. Particularly before air travel, the Statue of Liberty marked the entrance to America for countless individuals, many of them immigrants coming to the country for the first time. Not only will students learn a great deal from a tour at the Statue of Liberty, but they will also experience riding up to the statue on a boat with awe and wonder, the same way immigrants and others have done for hundreds of years.
Just a stone’s throw away from the Statue of Liberty is the famous Ellis Island. Ellis Island saw over 12 million immigrants come through for immigration inspection over a 60 year period. These immigrants came from a large number of countries in eastern, central, and southern Europe. Over 100 million Americans who are alive today can trace their family history and ancestry back to an individual who passed through Ellis Island as an immigrant. Ellis Island was a symbol of both hope and heartbreak for many in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The majority of individuals who passed through were sent into America to start a new life, which was an incredible opportunity after a long and likely arduous journey on a ship. However, about 2% of immigrants that came through Ellis Island never fully entered the United States, whether due to health concerns, lack of money, criminal background, and the like. The island itself and the museum of immigration located on the island are symbols of diversity, both literally and figuratively.
The United Nations
The absolute hub of diversity, peace, and social progress lies right in the heart of New York City at the United Nations. This group was founded in 1945 by 51 countries who sought to maintain international peace. Today, the UN has 193 member states and they are still working together to achieve friendships among nations, improved human rights, and international security. Not only does the US house delegates from all over the world, but students can visit the UN and learn all about social progress, tolerance, and diversity right in the midst of the United Nations. Six different languages are spoken (officially) at the UN, but tours are given in many more languages than that all throughout the year. Since so many people visit the United Nations headquarters from around the world, just the people you bump shoulders with here is a largely diverse experience.
If you want to experience raw diversity, take your students to Central Park. Central Park is huge, and there are a ton of activities, tours, gardens, and more to explore and experience. Native New Yorkers visit the park on a regular basis, whether they are jogging around its paths, relaxing with a book in the shade, or playing a game of Frisbee on the grass. Let your students just sit and observe their surroundings while at the park. They’ll see people of all races, ages, and ethnicities interacting with one another and simply enjoying life with others. New York City is an extremely diverse place, and seeing it in a natural and normal way at Central Park is sure to have an impact on your students.
World Trade Center Memorial
The terrorist attack on 9/11 will always be remembered by those who were old enough to be aware of what was happening. America was greatly affected by the events of that day, and students are now too young to have any recollection of what happened, if they were even alive at that point in history. The World Trade Center Memorial is a tribute to those who died on 9/11 and a place of hope for the future of our country. Every person who was killed in the attacks that day was an individual—they each had a different story, a different family, a different job, and different experiences. Many were from different racial and cultural backgrounds, as well. This memorial will remind students that we are all far more alike than we realize and that it’s okay to celebrate differences, as long as we choose to understand one another and find peace in the midst of diversity.